The American Girls Collection — generally referred to as "American Girl" — is a collection of dolls and books that show history in various time periods ranging from Late Native America to The Seventies — all through the eyes of the average nine-year-old girl.The main Historical Characters currently consist of:
Kaya'aton'my (1764): Nez Perce Native American in the Pacific Northwest, pre-European settlement. Tries to get rid of her Embarrassing Nickname 'Magpie' by proving to her tribe she isn't like the selfish bird. She has a Cool Horse.
Felicity Merriman (1774): Strangely, not part of the original three, yet pulled from the lineup in 2011. Fiery Redhead, daughter of a merchant family in Virginia as The American Revolution approaches. Her series has a lot of plots focusing on the conflict of independence vs. loyalty to tradition. She also has a Cool Horse. Her creation led to Pleasant Company completely remaking their dolls to have flesh tone bodies, as Felicity's period clothing featured plunging necklines. Eventually her friend Elizabeth Cole was made into a Best Friend doll in '05.
Caroline Abbott (1812): The third historical character to be released that isn't set in a year ending in '4. Daughter of a Sackets Harbor shipbuilder who ended up getting caught by the British during the War of 1812.
Josefina Montoya (1824):Shrinking Violet, daughter of a rancher in the Mexican-controlled Southwest. Her mother died just before her series starts, leaving her, her three sisters, and their grieving father somewhat lost, until her aunt Dolores moves in and helps everyone discover their Hidden Depths. No relation.
Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner (1853): Two very different girls (a French-speaking African American and an English-speaking Caucasian American, respectively) growing up and becoming friends during the boom of 19th century New Orleans, Louisiana. The girls' stories involve embracing one another despite differences and cultural barriers, and giving aid to those in distress, most notably during the breakout of yellow fever which struck New Orleans in 1853. The first of the main historical characters to be marketed as a duo (although each have their books, and their dolls can be purchased separately), and the first Historical Dolls not set in a year ending in '4.
Addy Walker (1864): The first non-white doll. First a slave in North Carolina, then escapes to Philadelphia, during The American Civil War. Her family is separated and has to reunite, and stories focus on issues faced by former slaves, such as catching up on the education they'd been denied and the fact that "free" black people weren't all that free, even in the North.
Samantha Parkington (1904): One of the original three, she was pulled from the lineup in 2009, but is slated to be re-released in 2014. Marketed as Victorian Era despite 1904 being The Edwardian Era. She's a rich orphan being raised by her conservative grandmother in upstate New York. She learns about the women's suffrage movement and the horrors of child labor. She fights to change conditions for the poor, and aspires to become the first woman president. In 2004 her friend and new sister, due to Samantha's Uncle Gard legally adopting both of them and Nellie's two younger sisters, Bridget and Jenny, and his daughters Nellie O'Malley was made into the first Best Friend doll to coincide with the release of Samantha's movie.
Rebecca Rubin (1914): Russian Jewish immigrant living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and aspires to be a movie actress, despite her parents and grandparents' more traditional views.
Kit Kittredge (1934): Cincinnati, Ohio, during The Great Depression. Kit's series focuses on learning to make-do without, and not taking things for granted. Her companion Ruthie was made into a Best Friend doll in '08.
Molly McIntire (1944): She lives in Illinois during World War II, while her father is serving in England as a doctor, and her books are largely about adapting to the changes brought on by war. Her family's English ward, Emily Bennett, was released as a Best Friend doll in '06. Molly and Emily were retired in 2013.
Julie Albright (1974): Lives in San Francisco during The Seventies. She learns how to deal with the changes her parents' divorce caused to her life while navigating social upheavals like second-wave feminism, the environmentalist movement, and the changing rights of racial minorities as explored through her relationship with her Chinese best friend, Ivy Ling. Ivy was released alongside Julie as a Best Friend doll, but her collection consisted of exactly one dress up until 2011.
There is also a set of dolls, called "My American Girl", which offers multiple dolls of varying looks to make into a personal character. This can lead to some unusual characters.Also since 2001, there has been a "Girl of the Year" (GOTY), a 9-year-old girl who would represent the year she came out.Girls of the Year so far include:
Lindsey Bergman in 2001. She was sold until the end of 2002. She was the first Jewish character to come out of American Girl and in her stories, she tried to help people with negative consequences. She had terrible sales when available, yet ironically she's one of the most sought-out dolls by collectors nowadays.
Kailey Hopkins in 2003. A surfer girl who tries to save the California tide pools from development projects.
Marisol Luna in 2005. A Hispanic girl who loves to dance, yet has to move to the other side of town where they don't have dance lessons.
Jess Akiko McConnell in 2006. A half-Japanese, half-Irish girl who goes out to Belize with her archaeologist parents.
Nikki Fleming in 2007. A Colorado girl who trains a dog to be a service dog.
Mia St. Clair in 2008. An ice-skater who wants to pursue figure skating when her family is full of hockey players.
Chrissa Maxwell, Sonali Matthews, and Gwen Thompson in 2009. Chrissa is the new girl who has to deal with bullying from the mean bees. Sonali is a former member of the bees, and Gwen is the (literally) poor girl they used to harass.
Lanie Holland in 2010. An adventurous girl who loves the outdoors living with a family who prefers the indoors.
Kanani Akina in 2011. A Hawaiian girl who introduces her cousin to her homeland. The line appears to be trying to avoid Hula and Luaus, but there are some spots...
McKenna Brooks in 2012. A girl who struggles to balance her struggle with her schoolwork with her love of and focus on gymnastics.
Saige Copeland in 2013. An artist who wants the subject to return to her school fully, instead of the every other year situation going on due to budget cuts.
Isabelle Palmer in 2014. She's a ballet dancer who attends the fictional Anna Hart School of Arts in Washington, DC.
While the dolls are targeted towards the 8-12 year old age range, most of the fandom will be found to be over the age of eighteen. This is because much of the fandom around the dolls consists of people who got or wanted the dolls young and grew up. (The dolls are expensive and can only be mail-ordered or purchased at specialty stores found in very large American cities.) There is also a large demographic of middle-aged women, many of whom have children who have or had the dolls.The company also used to publish the Amelia's Notebook series.Compare to Dear America, another series of historical fiction books starring girls, but aimed at an older demographic. (Also, no dolls.)
The American Girl series, toy line, and fandom show examples of:
Adaptation Dye-Job: In the original Felicity books, Felicity's best friend Elizabeth is a brunette, but in the movie (and later, for her doll) she's a blond.
Alliterative Name: Rebecca Rubin, Molly McIntire, and Zig Zagged with Kit Kittredge; Kit is just a nickname and her real name is Margaret, but her full name is Margaret Mildred Kittredge.
Alpha Bitch: Harriet Davis in Addy's series and Lavinia Halsworth in Cécile and Marie-Grace's series. Also Annabelle, Elizabeth's older sister in Felicity's story, Edith Eddleton in Samantha's story, and Blair in Lindsey's story with Missy as her Dragon.
Always Identical Twins: Wing Feather and Sparrow, Kaya's younger brothers, Agnes and Agatha Pitt in Samantha's series, and Rebecca's twin older sisters Sadie and Sophie.
Ambiguously Brown: None of the "tan" Just Like You dolls are given a specific race, and can generally be whatever the purchaser chooses. The tan dolls now actually have more facial diversity than the light ones.
Annoying Younger Sibling: Sometimes Wing Feather and Sparrow to Kaya, sometimes Nan and William to Felecity, Brad to Molly, and Ethan to Lindsey.
Ascended Extra: Emily was originally a minor character who stayed with Molly's family for two weeks. She was later made into a doll, given her own book and starred prominently in the movie.
Elizabeth, Nellie, Ruthie, and Ivy eventually got their own doll and book, best friends to Felicity, Samantha, Kit, and Julie, respectively.
Bittersweet Ending: Kaya's mystery The Silent Stranger. While giving away her beloved pet dog Tatlo to the titular stranger is great character development for Kaya, it's a bitter pill for many readers to swallow.
Changes for Addy. Yes, Addy's whole family is reunited once more, but Uncle Solomon dies before he can reunite with the Walkers and Auntie Lula dies a few days after returning Esther to the family.
Meet Kirsten. The final chapter shows Kirsten arriving in Minnesota and becoming friends with her cousins. The previous chapter has Kirsten dealing with the death of her best friend Marta.
Black Best Friend: With different races. Julie's best friend Ivy Ling is the only Asian Historical, and Kirsten has a Native Best Friend in Singing Bird.
Josefina, who may be mestiza, also has a Pueblo Indian friend, Mariana. Happy Birthday, Felicity! features a young black militiaman whom Felicity and Ben hang out with.
Blithe Spirit: Julie. Heck, her first book is about Julie trying to have her new school accept girls onto the boys-only basketball team.
British Stuffiness: Emily Bennett from Molly's story fits this at first, and the trope is also mentioned by Molly's mother.
But Not Too Black: The dolls of color in the Just Like You collection. The Asian one looks like a pale white girl with black hair and "almond" eyes, the company added several new dark skin models in 2010 (some even with the new Sonali mold), and the tan dolls are all racially ambiguous. They recently toned down the "textured" hair of the black dolls so the hair is less "natural" and more like chemically straightened hair, and the dark skin tone has gotten noticeably lighter. Some people will even purchase the Just Like You #26 doll and put her in Addy's clothes.
In an interesting subversion, the Sonali doll actually has darker skin than the original character.
Butt Monkey: Sarah Moore from the Addy series hardly seems to catch a break. She is the daughter of impoverished parents who often has to put off her studies and laundering her clothing just to help her Mother with the laundry orders, the rich girls snicker at the fact that she attends school in stained dresses, she is falling far behind in her reading and spelling compared to her formerly illiterate friend Addy, she is often more self-conscious and has acquired a pair of Jade-Colored Glasses as a result of segregation and the social hierarchy in school, and she finally has to drop out of school just to help her family earn more money to get by; Addy offers to come over and help her catch up on schoolwork.
The Chew Toy: Lindsey is just never allowed to be happy or succeed at anything, is she?
Child Hater: Mrs. Schumacher from Lindsey's story comes across this way.
Companion Cube: The original five girls (Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Molly)all have a doll that they treasure, usually received as a gift during the Christmas books. Josefina and Kit each had one as well, but they were discussed to a lesser extent.
Cool Big Sis: Some of the older sisters have their moments, like Francisca in Josefina Saves the Day when she's the one to accompany Josefina into Santa Fe in the middle of the night to get the stuff Patrick O'Toole left for them.
Many of the girls themselves serve this role as well, like Josefina with her nephew.
Dance of Romance: Josefina first realizes that her father and Tia Dolores are in love when she sees them dance a waltz together at a fiesta.
Darker and Edgier: The Girls of Many Lands book and doll line and the History Mysteries book series (both discontinued). Both series had slightly older protagonists than the historical dolls, and both touched on some of the darker and sadder parts of history the main historical series tend to play down.
Death by Childbirth: Florecita, one of the goats on the ranch where Josefina lives, in Happy Birthday, Josefina!
Disappeared Dad: Stirling's dad from Kit's series, Molly's dad until the end of Changes for Molly, and Gwen's dad from Chrissa's series.
Don't Split Us Up: In Changes for Samantha, when the orphaned Nellie was to be sent on the orphan train without her sisters, Samantha helps the three sisters to run away and hide out in her attic so they could be together.
Dramatis Personae: At the front of every book, the protagonist's family and friends are depicted in a historically accurate way - individual portraits for the well-to-do Colonial Merrimans, but a group family daguerreotype for Kirsten's family, and so on.
The current books tend to stick with individual portraits for all the stories, Kirsten's group daguerreotypes being replaced with single portraits. The frames do reflect either the character's time period or their culture, however.
It didn't get any better when I got home, either. Mom met me at the door with her own version of the asparagus face. Even my dog, Mr. Tiny, the most loyal and fabulous wiener dog in the history of the world, lowered his tail and slunk down to the basement at the sight of me.
Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: In Happy Birthday, Molly!, one of Molly's friends tries to curtsy while wearing pants when she meets the English girl Emily, and she says that she thought English girls always did that. Felicity and her peers have to learn for real.
Fake Brit: Molly and her friends fake British accents while anticipating the arrival of Emily.
Fashion Hurts: In Molly's last book, she's obsessed with curling her hair so she'll be more likely to get picked for the lead role in a patriotic dance for her tap class. After trying various increasingly uncomfortable methods, she resorts to one that involves sleeping with soaking-wet hair, which causes her to catch a cold and not be able to perform at all.
Fear of Thunder: Josefina (although it's actually lightning she's afraid of).
Feud Episode: Kit and Ruthie, Molly and Emily...it's a common plot for a couple of the books, though the friends always make up in the end.
First Love: This trope is alluded to in Josefina's stories; her mother has died before the series began. A poem about first love was a favorite of hers (even though she could not read). Her literate aunt wrote the poem down at some point (and uses it to encourage Josefina to read); it is implied that the poem is unique for Josefina's late mother through the series as it takes Josefina's father some time to grow to love her aunt, Tia Dolores.
Friend to All Living Things: Most of the doll collections come with a pet of some kind. Some of these are perfectly reasonable, like Marisol's cat or Addy's canary. But then you get Kanani's harp seal, or Chrissa's mail-delivering llama...
Force Feeding: Addy's first book, when the slave driver forces Addy to eat slugs off the tobacco plants.
Four Girl Ensemble: The Montoya sisters: Ana, the oldest and the Team Mom (almost literally, since their mother is dead and she's already married with two kids); Francisca, the beautiful, fashionable, rebellious one; Clara, the diligent, prudent, preachy one; and Josefina, the youngest and the main character, who's chirpy and cheerful and tries to keep the peace between Francisca and Clara when Ana's not around.
Happy Holidays Dress: Almost every Historical Character has a holiday dress, and every year a new holiday dress and accessory ensemble is released.
Have a Gay Old Time: In the Rebecca mystery "The Crystal Ball", one paragraph mentions "the gay crowds". Since this story takes place in the 1910's, the language is accurate for describing a cheerful group of people. On the other hand, the story was published in 2012 - and today's average tween and young teen reading this book is likelier to be much more familiar with a very different meaning for the word "gay".
Hollywood History: History gets (somewhat) prettied up when making it palatable for children. The worst abuses of Edwardian Era workhouses are left out (except in the movie), but it's still pretty clear that they're rotten, awful places. Also, although it makes a lovely story, it's unlikely that a society as class-driven as Samantha's would have seen a rich couple adopting immigrant street orphans.
Hypocrite: Annabelle thinks it's perfectly alright to call Elizabeth "Bitsy", but hits the roof when she finds Felicity mocking her with the name "Bananabelle".
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In Changes for Josefina, Tía Dolores feels that despite her feelings for Josefina's Papá, she has to leave the ranch so he can find a new wife. Ironically, Papá does love Tía Dolores, but he wants his beloved to be happy and let her go where she wants to go. Fortunately they end up Happily Married with each other when Josefina clears up the situation with her Papá.
Iconic Item: As part of the strict formula, each girl has a necklace and gets a doll at Christmas. Sometimes these have some plot significance, and sometimes they don't — e.g., Josefina's necklace is a gold cross with a garnet that's never mentioned at all in-story, whereas Addy's is a cowrie shell her grandmother brought from Africa strung on one of her brother's shoelaces to remind her of her family; but Josefina's doll is part of a family Christmas tradition from before her mother died, and Addy's just happens to be her Christmas present.
Infant Immortality: If you're young enough to be considered a child in whatever time period you're in and the main character knows you by name, then you're pretty much guaranteed to live in the historical series. Averted with Marta in Kirsten's series, though, and Marie-Grace is stated to have a younger brother who died in a cholera epidemic.
Informed Flaw: Brad is described as a 'little pest' to Molly, but he never does anything in the books to antagonize or even annoy Molly.
Jerkass: Uncle Hendrick in Kit's series. He thinks less of his niece's husband for paying his workers with his own money, and hates Roosevelt out of a belief that poor people are lazy and don't deserve his help.
Loads and Loads of Characters: Think of all the notable characters in all of the girl's series that you could apply tropes to. Your head just exploded. As for dolls, there's 13 historical dolls, 5 historical best friend dolls, 12 GOTY dollsnote Gwen and Sonali were released along with Chrissa and counting, and 58 My American Girl Dolls. Most fans just try to buy the ones they really like instead of getting them all.
Live-Action Adaptation: Some of the Historicals, namely Samantha, Felicity, Molly and Kit got to appear in their very own films. As for the contemporary girls, only Chrissa Maxwell and McKenna Brooks made it in front of the camera so far.
May-December Romance: Fandom seems to center on three main pairings as favorites is Felicity/Ben, Josefina/Patrick, and Kit/Will. The first two pairings have an age disparity of six years whereas Kit/Will has only five, but the May December Romance inherent in the pairings causes some fans to love these pairings even more, and Felicity/Ben is extremely popular within the fandom.
Memento MacGuffin: A handmade doll named Niña fulfills this purpose in Josefina's Surprise. She is both a valuable part of a family tradition and a keepsake from the sisters' mother. The tradition in question is to for the sister with the doll to hand it down to the next youngest sister when she turns eight years old, but Clara breaks the pattern by hanging onto Niña after their mother dies. She completes her Character Development when she learns to let go of her mother and finally gives the doll to Josefina.
The Merch: From historically accurate underwear to doll-sized Heelies, the dolls have everything.
Recently a modern lunch accessory set included an EpiPen.
Josefina's mom died a year prior to the first book. This becomes a plot point in Josefina's Surprise.
Marie-Grace's mother has been dead for four years at the start of Mare-Grace's first book.
Mr. Fanservice: Why Kevin Zegers was cast as Ben Davidson in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure and likewise for Max Thieriot as Will Shepherd when the AG movies went theatrical in 2008 with Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. This trope also appears in the books, where readers have admitted to crushing on male characters drawn beguilingly handsome such as Kit's older brother Charlie from her books.
Official Cosplay Gear: There were girl-sized outfits and accessories that matched the outfits available for the Historical Characters. Now this is generally only applied to their nightclothes and the modern outfits.
Parental Abandonment: A few, like Samantha, the orphan. Addy is also a partial case of this, as only she and her mother make the initial journey north. In Addy's Surprise, she is reunited with her father.
Marie-Grace's father is still alive, but he gets so busy with his doctor work that she only sees him in the evenings. At one point he tries to send Marie-Grace to live with her relatives due to the yellow fever epidemic keeping him away from home so often.
Pet the Dog: Off-page, Annabelle assists Elizabeth and their mother in sewing Felicity's blue ballgown when Mrs. Merriman is too ill to do it herself.
Pimped-Out Dress: The holiday dresses, since these are supposed to be formal outfits.
This seemed to be the case with Josefina's friend Marianna as well. She lives with her grandparents and no parents are mentioned.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Impulsive Fiery Redhead Felicity and Cooler headed Elizabeth, especially in "Very Funny, Elizabeth!" when the girls were discussing plans on how to prevent Elizabeth from being moved to England, Felicity discussed them running away to the Kentucky Frontier while Elizabeth comes up with a more convenient and hilarious plan.
"Chatterbox" and Impulsive American Molly and the reserved and thoughtful Emily.
Retcon: This is dramatically seen with Elizabeth Cole — Felicity's best friend — being changed from a brown-eyed brunette to a blue-eyed blonde. All the images and text of Felicity's stories were updated to make it like she'd always been blonde.
A more minor example is Emily. She was originally portrayed as having a bob-like hairstyle, she was later reillustrated to have shoulder-length hair following Molly's movie.
Another minor example is Felicity's iconic "Meet Felicity" gown. The original books and dolls showed her in a rose-print gown. It's pretty, but the pattern manages not to be overly girly. Later editions give her a lavender gown with multicolored flowers and white flourishes, looking much cuter and stereotypically girlier.
Rule of Three: The first three girls were released together: Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly.
Edith Eddleton to Samantha. They are both wealthy, upper-class girls, but Samantha befriends Nellie and her sisters while Edith looks down on them for being servants.
Blair and Missy to Lindsey in a similar fashion — Lindsey is a good friend to April and helps her feel better, but Blair and Missy get their kicks out of bullying her.
Shown Their Work: At the end of each historical book is a "Looking Back" section that goes into some detail about the time period, and helps to place the character in the time. Kaya and Josefina had cultural panels involved in their creation as well, which is why Kaya is the only doll with a closed mouth (showing one's teeth is considered offensive to Nez Perce).
Spanner in the Works: In the game of Color War played in Molly Saves the Day, the Red Team captures every member of the Blue Team except for Molly and Susan, who didn't follow the group because Susan is bad at canoeing and wound up in the wrong spot. Molly is ultimately the player who devises a plan to free her entire team, capture the flag and return home, victorious.
Spicy Latina: Josefina is an aversion but her beautiful, hot-tempered sister Francisca is a straight example.
Shrinking Violet: Sort-of deconstructed in Felicity Learns a Lesson. Felicity becomes angry with Elizabeth for not speaking up when Annabelle lied about and insulted her father; however, it is resolved when Elizabeth decides to grow a spine and stand up to her abrasive older sister.
Elizabeth: I hate being called Bitsy. From now on, call me Elizabeth. Or I will call you Bananabelle in front of everyone. Annabelle, Bananabelle.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Of all people, Uncle Hendrick and Elsie Mundis in Kit's mystery Intruders at Rivermead Manor. When Hendrick and Elsie were teenagers, Elsie's parents forbade her from hanging out with other young men. Elsie also turned down Hendrick's marriage proposal since she couldn't marry without her parents' blessings, resulting in Hendrick's Jerkass nature as an elderly man.
Strictly Formula: The central books always followed a pattern of 'Meet ____' (introduction), '___ Learns a Lesson' (school), '___'s Surprise' (Christmas), 'Happy Birthday, ___!' (self-explanatory), '___ Saves the Day!' (adventure), and 'Changes for ___' (winter, New Year's, or some sort of closure to the story). The books broke the pattern with Kaya because Native Americans obviously didn't have things like schoolhouses or Christmas, and all dolls released after her have followed a similarly loose formula.
Addy's mother works as a seamstress in a dress shop.
Felicity and her peers have to learn to sew samplers as part of their lessons on how to be a Proper Lady. Elizabeth also helps sew Felcity's blue ballgown.
A major plot point in Josefina's Christmas book is the Montoya sisters, with the help of their aunt, repairing the Las Posadas altar cloth that their mother made, using a special type of embroidery called colcha. Josefina notes that Clara is especially good at it, even sewing a new dress for Niña the doll when she's ready to hand her down to Josefina at last. In different books, the sisters learn to make dresses of their own and weave blankets from sheep's wool to sell.
Three-Month-Old Newborn: Averted (no, seriously). Kirsten's mother tells her that when she was born, she was "a red-faced little thing with white fuzz for hair".
Title Drop: Occurs in the last line of Really, Truly Ruthie.
Token Minority: Josefina, Ivy, and Kaya all have unique ethnicities. Also seen in people's collections when people will have one or two minority dolls. This mostly consist of limited edition dolls or Just Like You #26, who appears biracial black. There have only been two Jewish dolls: Lindsey (who was only available for a short time) and Rebecca.
Molly's friends Linda and Susan, with Molly as The Kirk.
Felicity and her little sister, Nan, fill this role as well. As do Agnes and Agatha in the Samantha series, with Agnes being more prim than her sister (not that it lasts long).
Wham Line: When Kit goes to the soup kitchen and serves soup to a man who turns out to be her father.
Combined with Meaningful Echo and Brick Joke in Addy Saves the Day. In the first book, Addy's brother Sam teaches her a riddle, so in Saves the Day...
Addy:(doing a puppet show) What's smaller than a dog, but can send a bear on the run?
Solider in Crowd: That's an easy riddle! Even my little sister knows that one! It's a skunk!
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lindsey stops Blair from tormenting April, so Blair pretends that Lindsey attacked her on the way to school. It only partially works.
You Mean Xmas: Up until they created Kaya, each of the American Girl characters had a Christmas story as a part of her book series. Since Kaya obviously wouldn't have celebrated Christmas, living before the Nez Perce had much contact with Europeans, they gave her a story about "giving" as her obligatory "holiday" book.
You Go Girl: Julie's efforts to join the basketball team serve as a kid-friendly representation of second-wave feminism.